April 15 2014
By Jenn Watt
Darlene Buckingham and Shawn Arscott thought they were leaving nuclear power and uranium behind when they moved their lives from Pickering to Tory Hill in 2006. Living in the shadow of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station and its eight CANDU reactors the artists decided to move to the countyside and concentrate on the theme of endangered species. But uranium followed them. Soon after relocating Buckingham and Arscott who run Earthdance Studio discovered that a company was planning an open pit uranium mine near their home.
Then they found that uranium in the ground was affecting their well water and there was radon in the air. “When we came up here … that’s when we started doing the research on uranium. Once you open up a can of worms it’s hard to close it. You learn so much more by getting involved” said Arscott. In their battle against the mine and clearing their home of the toxic gas they started filming. They filmed themselves public meetings politicians and even the abandoned uranium mine site in Cardiff.
The end result was U: A story about uranium and us which showed at the Haliburton International Film Festival in 2008. They took it to just one other festival – Reframe in Peterborough – and sent it off to a uranium film festival. They didn’t hear back until April 1 of this year. “We thought it was an April Fool’s joke” said Buckingham. “It was totally unexpected.” U will be playing in the Modern Art Museum of Rio de Janeiro during the Uranium Film Festival May 14 to 24 alongside other works that cover the whole industry behind nuclear power with several films focusing on the disaster at Fukushima in 2011.
The couple estimates about 40 films will be showing during the 10-day event. “It’s amazing that there are that many films about uranium. It’s becoming a huge topic around the world as it should be” said Buckingham. The couple is shocked that Ontario continues to push toward nuclear power and are disgusted by a proposal to bury low- and intermediate-level waste in Kincardine on the shores of Lake Huron.
“They want to create more reactors. We’re not learning our lessons here. It’s disconcerting to say the least” said Arscott. They are in the process of finding funds to put together a new documentary this time on the situation in Kincardine. Arscott and Buckingham say switching to renewable energy is the direction Ontario should be going suggesting if as much money as was invested in nuclear energy was invested in renewables many of the obstacles could be overcome. It was never their intention to spend their lives grappling with uranium but the element continues to dictate their course.
They’ve decided to embrace it. “Uranium is always there and you can’t turn it off” said Buckingham. “I think too uranium has become part of our artistic statement and work.”